With a physically dominating performance behind it following a strong 16-8 victory over Waterford last Friday in Waterford that netted the East Tartans their first playoff victory in the history of the football program, the Tartans, again, will look to embrace the role of the underdog as East looks to use the continued fodder provided on Southeastern Ohio Preps and the momentum from its opening round victory to its advantage heading into a Division VII, Region 27 Semifinal affair against Hannibal River (7-4), which will be played at Basil Rutter Field in Athens on Friday evening.
East, who enters the contest with an overall mark of 9-2 overall, is led by a wonderful attack that is spearheaded by senior quarterback Brady Douthat.
Douthat, who obtained 1,609 yards of total offense and 30 total touchdowns during the regular season, completed nine of his 11 passes for 106 yards in the Tartans’ first round victory over the Wildcats on Friday evening. His favorite target, JD Hatcher, obtained 559 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns on 23 receptions during the season to create, as East fans call it, a “money in the bank” connection.
To further compliment Douthat’s abilities, the three-headed monster rushing tandem of Kyle Flannery, Ethan Gifford, and Ethan Carver have all been strong throughout the season. Flannery, Gifford, and Carver, who combined for 1,121 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns during the regular season, have taken their turns carrying the load, with Carver — who ran for 109 yards and two scores on 19 carries last week — starring in the backfield. They’ll run behind an experienced line that includes Blaine Scott, Grant Gifford, Brayden Gifford, Justin Kritzwiser, and Trenten Bond, who combined for 144 pancake blocks during the regular season. Scott, one of two seniors on the offensive line, had 70 pancakes on his own through the first 10 games.
Defensively, the outstanding play of Gifford and Braiden Haney — who combined for 162 tackles and 39 tackles for a loss during the regular season — shone through for an East defense that held star running back Braden Bellville to just 43 yards on 16 carries after the first offensive series of the contest.
Gifford, who had 80 tackles (15 for a loss), four sacks, three fumble recoveries, and two interceptions during the regular season, picked off a pass to set up East’s first touchdown that tied the score at eight apiece, while Haney, who finished with 82 tackles (24 for a loss), 12 sacks, and two blocked punts during the first 10 games of the year, added 2.5 sacks to keep the Waterford offense at bay.
Chandler Carver (58 tackles, sack, interception), Mackie Kingery (53 tackles, three fumble recoveries, interception), Devon Stevens (39 tackles, three interceptions), Ethan Carver (44 tackles, two sacks), Hatcher (46 tackles, interception), Flannery (three interceptions), and Douthat (36 tackles, two interceptions) will add be critical components in stopping a River offensive attack that includes Lukas Isaly and Drew Dietz, among others. Douthat forced a crucial fumble on a caught pass that led to the game-winning six-yard touchdown run by Ethan Carver.
East will play River at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening.